The Adventures of Blackie Savoy: A Brief History of the
Screwball World of Paul Savoy

by David L. Vineyard


        “I’m not fond of your methods, mon cher Blackie,” Inspector Dupont of Interpol said, “but not for nothing do they call you ze world’s greatest detective.”

                                                  Black Moon of the Mummy, by Paul Savoy                    

       There isn’t a great deal known about Paul Savoy, the author of the long running Blackie Savoy saga.  He seems to have been born in Tasmania in 1888 with an Irish father and English mother, and have grown up in New South Wales on a sheep station where his mother was a cook and his father chief sheep shearer. 

        His childhood is a mystery, and there is little record of him at all until 1904 when at age sixteen he showed up in Perth as a reporter on the Daily Grind, a local newspaper. A year later he began his career as a fictioneer in the Australian weekly Lads and Laddies, a local imitation of the famed British Boys Own Paper, contributing to the adventures of Lord Saxton Bleek, a cross between British pulp sleuth Sexton Blake and schoolboy sleuth Nelson Lee.

        Between 1904 and 1920 Savoy contributed some four million words to the sagas of Lord Bleek, the Justicer (a proto super hero possibly created by Savoy and with some ties to his Blackie Savoy), girl sleuth Mary Nice (for Lassies and Lasses, a sister publication of Lads and Laddies), and Sam Sunderman, an Outback sleuth with some resemblance to Arthur Upfield’s half aborigine Bony. 

         Savoy married in 1922 and settled down to a career in advertising, but unable to make ends meet he decided to try and start his own publishing empire with The Boys Own Adventure, a slavish imitation of The Boys Own Paper.  He soon lost all his money and was forced into bankruptcy, but did contribute one new character of interest, The Honourable Bart [1], who had many things in common with Blackie Savoy, including a female companion named Wanda – though without the romantic interest that marked the Blackie Savoy saga.

         By 1929 the gentleman adventurer was in full swing in popular fiction, and taking note of the success not only of Sapper’s (H.C. McNeile) Bulldog Drummond, Leslie Charteris’s the Saint, and with nods to his own Lord Bleek and the Honourable Bart, Savoy pounded out the first adventure of Blackie Savoy over a long drunken weekend in Sidney [2] while he was supposed to be covering the cricket matches.

        Savoy lost his newspaper job, but a career was born.  “The Bloody Big Footprint” appeared in the October Australian edition of the British pulp Thriller headlined as “introducing that marvelous new sleuth, Blackie Savoy.”

        This is how we first meet Blackie:

        A man sailed into the room like a destroyer cutting through the wake of an angry ocean.  He was smaller than a mountain, but no less prepossessing, a big, smiling, handsome devil of a man with a pane of glass in his left eye (he had lost partial sight in that eye thanks to the butt of a German rifle, and finished the dirty hun who cost him that vision with his bare hands).  His eyes were the gray of sea ice sludge, and his wavy hair blue black.  A Douglas Fairbanks mustache sat on his upper lip above his wide smiling mouth of dazzling white teeth like ivory tombstones.

        “By, Gad,” Blackie Savoy exclaimed at the top of his voice to no one in particular.  “I could use a bloody brew I could.  Fightin’ the unholy and unwashed is deuced thirsty work I tells you.”

        Luckily Blackie’s English improved fairly quickly, and he lost the bad eye and monocle as well as the dropped g’s, but in many ways he comes to us full blown in his first adventure replete with his ally and sometimes frustrated friend Inspector Alphonse Dupont of Interpol.  (Interpol did not yet exist at this time, and Dupont is described as an agent of the International Police Force of the League of Nations, but by the late thirties he is a full blown agent of Interpol.   He is described as Belgian in the first outing, but for most of the saga he is French with only a few episodes in which he is Belgian once again.)

        Also present is Wing, Blackie’s Chinese valet and man Friday, and his yellow Hispano-Suisa salon car.  (In the post war era it was replaced by a more sedate Bentley.)  Neither Wanda nor Dr. Humbolt Morphy, his greatest antagonist make their debut here, but the basic format for Blackie's adventures is set.  

        Blackie is the son of a wealthy Australian peer who sent him to England for his education.  Sent down from Oxford for thrashing a Bolshie tutor (his father was secretly proud, but of course could not express that sentiment).  To keep himself in the manner to which he and Wing are accustomed, Blackie begins to write true crime sagas, and along the way solve crimes the police are too incompetent to handle. [3]

        In “The Bloody Big Footprint” Blackie is researching a book on the Cornwall Conker, a serial offender who conks unsuspecting victims on the head and relieves them of their watches.  While looking into the Conker’s latest crime he spots a huge animal footprint as is told of a local legend of a spectral dog that accompanies the Conker.  Intrigued by the ‘bloody big footprint’ Blackie and Wing follow a lead to a local breeder of horses and discover the stables cover a white slavery ring. 

        The ‘Conker’  is one of the squires henchmen who has been attacking those who get too  close to the operation and steals their watches for fear they will realize the time of the crime coincides with the arrival of certain ships on the Cornish coast used to smuggle out the poor women victims.  Blackie is captured and left to die in a fiendish trap [4], makes one of his patented escapes, and brings the forces of the law down on the operation after strangling the ‘Conker’ with his bare hands.  The spectral hound is only a very big dog that the mastermind keeps disguised as a small pony with his other animals.  Dupont ends the tale with a familiar flourish for the first and not the last time in the saga.

        “Not for nothing are you called ze great detective, Blackie,” Dupont said admiringly.

        The first four Blackie stories are published in book form in 1930 as The Crimes of Blackie Savoy (Savoire Faire Press, Perth).  In Blackie’s next adventure, The Lethal Legatee, the first true novel in the saga, Wanda deLicht is introduced:

        She was the love of his life.  Tall, statuesque, yet willowy of limb and with the strength of a Channel swimmer, she might have been some ancient goddess, fully the equal to her man who worshiped the ground she walked on.  The magnificent red haired actress and mannequin seemed born to stand by Blackie Savoy’s side and hang on his arm – when his hands weren’t needed for more violent pursuits.  No few men envied Blackie Savoy the beautiful Wanda deLicht of the achromatic eyes (one gray green, one gray blue), but those eyes were only for him, her knight in armor, her Lancelot, her Lochnivar. 

        Wanda and Blackie never marry, yet it is clear they live together, though until late in the saga when the books deteriorated to soft porn there is no consummation of the relationship.  No one ever seems to mind, and even the most narrow minded of their hosts in their travels never seem bothered by Blackie and Wanda sharing a room. Early on Wanda is often traveling with Blackie as he researches his true crime books, but in some later books Blackie is traveling with her as she takes on an acting assignment or modeling job. [5]  

        This second book is also notable for introducing Blackie’s nemesis, that genius of crime, Dr. Humbolt Morphy:

        A small twisted man with a huge head which housed his great brain, it looked as if his great head would have at any moment unbalance him and send him crashing to the floor, and yet somehow his slight form – disguising steel muscles and unnatural strength as Blackie Savoy could attest – carried its great burden with the grace of a Nijinsky.  His features were brutishly ugly, with a high brow a pugnacious jaw, piggy close set red eyes, and wiry red hair sprouting everywhere on his skull.  His unfortunate students, in his younger days before he turned to a life of crime, had dubbed him Quasimodo.  In pay back for that insult half a dozen of them had died in agony from an extract of the poisonous datura plant placed in their biscuits at high tea.

        It was the first of many crimes in the long career of the master of theoretical statistical mathematics and crypto chemistry.  

        Morphy is somewhat more hands-on than most super criminals, depending on himself more than his minions, and little wonder:

        “I tell you, Savoy, the downfall of all great men is the reliance on their lieutenants.  Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, all were laid low by the failures of men in their employ.  I, on the other hand, rely only upon myself.”

      “Must be a great comfort,” Blackie said, “When your absurd schemes inevitably fail.”

      Morphy’s red eyes flared, then he gained control of himself.  “Crime is an art, Savoy, and all art is a process of trial and error.

        “Hmm, make an error, and you end up on trial, eh?”

        Morphy is also the cheapest fiend in all literature.  He is notoriously tight fisted, thanks to his Scot’s blood. [6]   With this book the model for Blackie’s future adventures are formed.  Blackie and Wanda travel to some exotic location (Egypt, Tibet, South America, Fiji, the Bahamas, Trenton, New Jersey ...) and stumble upon one of Morphy's plots.  The good doctor, who claims to be a descendant of the great chess master Paul Morphy, never stays in one place long, his huge head and ugly features difficult to disguise.  In The New Face of Evil (published in the US as The Acid Bath Murders, 1948) he briefly manages to disguise himself thanks to extensive plastic surgery, but at the end of the novel falls victim to a vat of sulphuric acid meant for Wanda and Blackie leaving him more hideous and bitter than ever.

        There is  brief pause in the saga during the Second World War where Paul Savoy distinguished himself as a conscientious objector, but at war’s end Blackie returns having served as a commando in a special unit directly under the command of Winston Churchill. [7]  After a few false notes Savoy takes a note from Peter Cheyney and Mickey Spillane and gives us a tougher and more modern Blackie and Wanda.  Blackie has disposed of his old Webley Fosbury for a .45 automatic, and Wing, his faithful valet, has been retired to whatever home for used men Friday will have him.

        From I, the Executer (1951):

        The beautiful French chef, Mademoiselle Lemaire, swung on Blackie with her great carving knife, her magnificent body nude save for a brief black lace apron to protect her vulnerable parts while deep frying, but she was too slow.  Blackie’s great .45 crashed three times, and three great holes as big as a man’s fist punched into her taut belly.

        Her eyes were going dark, but she heard Blackie’s last words.

        “That omelette you made for me, sweetheart ... it was greasy.”

        Mademoiselle Lemaire is the mistress of Dr. Morphy.  Blackie later took on something of a Bondian cachet as the mood of popular fiction changed yet again.

       From On Service For Her Majesty (1964) :

        The casino smelled at three o’clock in the morning.  Blackie, fighting a headache brought on by most of a bottle of Laphrohaig on top of a meal of poached escargot and cold boulibaise, suppressed a belch as he eyed Le Chit, the paymaster general for “Mockrie Delka,” the wet work division of the thirteenth department of the KGB housed in the basement of the Gum department store.

         But by the seventies Blackie’s sales were down, and Savoy seemed unable to adapt to the new world.  The last of the hardcover Blackie’s appeared in 1970 (Guns for a Nosegay) and after a five year hiatus, the next Blackie Savoy book (Up Your's Morphy) appeared as a paperback original from Narcosis Press, a soft porn publisher.  More books appeared over the next five years before news reached these shores that Paul Savoy had passed on, having fallen off an excursion boat in Sydney Harbor and not being noticed until it was too late. The body was never recovered, believed eaten by sharks who no doubt suffered an epic hangover.        

        In a way he wrote his own epitaph in the final Blackie adventure, In the Cockpit (1979).

                “We’ve had a good run of it, Wanda, my love.  A good run, don’t you think?”
                “Oh yes, Blackie, a splendid run.”  It’s been great fun hasn’t it?”

                “Splendid, old girl.  Splendid.”

        Print wasn’t the only medium Blackie conquered.  As early as 1933 their were feelers for a Blackie Savoy movie, and in 1935 Blackie made his debut in Blackie Savoy Gets His from a local Australian film company.  The film is lost, but reviews were less than enthusiastic.  In 1938 Savoy’s old paper, The Daily Grind began a Blackie Savoy comic strip called simply Blackie Savoy that would run off and on until 1962 when it was pushed out by reprints of Rupert Bear.  Blackie also had a long career on radio in a fifteen minute serial five days a week The Adventures of Blackie Savoy.

        There were numerous planned Blackie Savoy projects throughout the 1950's, but it wasn’t until 1961 that the syndicated television series Blackie Savoy made its debut with Lawrence Lothar as Blackie, Caroline Lotta as Wanda, Jean-Paul Sartre [8] as Inspector Dupont, and Maximilian Zamphir, the great Hungarian actor, as Dr. Morphy.  The series ran from 1961 through 1965 in some 80 episodes that have seldom been seen since.  The Complete Blackie Savoy can be had on DVD in the rare Region 3 format. [9]

        Paul Savoy is an interesting footnote in the story of the Australian crime novel.  His creation Blackie Savoy, one of the longest running of all series characters,  though largely forgotten today, remains a fascinating character to modern readers.  Savoy remained throughout his career as most eccentric and unusual writer, and one who remains the bane of collectors thanks to his many publishers and difficult to find works.


       Bibliography of Blackie Savoy:

The Crimes of Blackie Savoy
  (consisting of The Bloody Big Footprint, What Big Eyes You Have Little Girl, Dont Shoot Its Blackie Savoy, and Shoot Quick Its Blackie Savoy)

The Lethal Legatee (also published as Wanda Gets It Done)

A Long Lay For Blackie Savoy (basis for the movie Blackie Savoy Gets His)

Blackie Savoy Takes the Bait

Catch Him By The Toe (the most difficult of the books to find, murder among the Aborigines)

Shoot Or Don’t

The Blackie Savoy Omnibus (consisting of The Lethal Legatee, A Long Lay for Blackie Savoy, Blackie Savoy Takes the Bait, and Shoot Or Dont)


The Many Crimes of Blackie Savoy (consisting of “Scotched by the Scots,”  “Wanda's Naughty Bit,”  “Not Now Dr. Morphy!”, and “Blackie Shoots His Bolt”)

Test Match for Murder

More Crime for Blackie Savoy (consisting of “The Foul Fiend of Finagel,”  “The Round About Rondelle,”  “Who’s Dat Blackie Savoy?”  and “He’s Dat Blackie Savoy.”)

Contraband for Blackie Savoy

I, The Executor

Kill Me Dead


Vengeance is a Mime’s

Bride of the Killer Diller

Sing Sing For Your Supper

The Black Moon of the Mummy

On Her Majesty’s Service

You Only Live Until You're Dead

Thunder Royale

Gun For a Nosegay

Up Yours Blackie Savoy (first of the soft porn paperback originals)

Wanda’s Wicked Wish

Laid Low by Blackie Savoy

Black Garters and Fishnets for Wanda

The Power of Fishnets

The Lusty World of Blackie Savoy

In the Cockpit

* Blackie’s Long Night (not by Paul Savoy; seems to have been written to fulfill a contract by his sixth wife and stepson)

* Shoot Fast Blackie Savoy (not by Paul Savoy, based on the radio serial)

        In addition it has been discovered in recent years that Paul Savoy wrote the western series about Limpabit O’Casey as Tex Savory running to some twenty titles including Limpabit Limps Along, and Limpabit Limps Again.  Savoy may also have contributed to the long running Captain Crusader Space Opera series, at the very least Crusader and the Suns of Ceres.  Savoy also contributed original stories to the short lived Blackie Savoy comic book.


Blackie Savoy Gets His (1935, Centaur Studios; 72 minutes, with Hopewell Hoppe as Blackie)


The Adventures of Blackie Savoy.  A 15 minute daily serial (1945 - 1962) with Compton Courier-Quiss as the voice of Blackie.


Blackie Savoy (1961-1965)

Note: In 2003 a new Blackie Savoy film was announced to star Jude Law, but nothing has come of it yet.

                Gems from the Blackie Savoy saga:

        “I never suspect, Inspector.  I know.”
        “You suspect this is ze work of ze Dr. Morphy?”
        “I know.”

        “Your Miss deLicht is quite a throroughbred, Mr. Savoy.”
        “She’s good in the stretch,” Blackie said.

        “Ze dead, they do sometimes talk, mon ami,” Inspector Dupont said.
        “Sometimes they won’t bloody well shut up,” Blackie sighed.

        “Tell me Miss deLicht, just how do you get the stubborn Mr. Savoy to follow you so willingly?  I would be grateful for your secret.”
        “I’m sorry Dr. Morphy, but I don’t really think fishnets and garters would work for you.”

        “Not for nothing is ze Dr. called a criminal mastermind.”
        “There can be no doubt, this is the work of that madman Morphy, he is insidious.”
        “The Yellow fiend.”
        “Ah, yes, I forgot his jaundice.”

        As Blackie and Wanda descended from the bus they eyed the sign noting the Western Australian town Distraction, population 135.
        “Well,” Blackie said.  “I think I can honestly say we have finally been driven to Distraction.”

        “Not for nothing ...”
        “Am I the world’s greatest detective?”
        “Really, mon ami, your ego, it is getting how you say, out of control?”

        “Blackie, do you really think Dr. Morphy is finished once and for all?”
        “Well, Wanda, at least until that lush who writes these things blows his latest advance.”

[1]  The Honourable Bart, was Lucifer Bart esq., the son of peer and the best amateur bowler (cricket) in Australia began his career solving crime while still a student at Havorford.

[2]  Savoys drinking was legendary.  According to his fourth wife by age 50 he was consuming two fifths of The Glenlivviet a day.  In later years as his funds dried up he was reduced to generic Scotch.  Savoy continued to imbibe his own favorite Laphrohaig (see Scotched by the Scots in The Many Crimes of Blackie Savoy, adapted for the syndicated television series Blackie Savoy (1961-1965)

[3]  Paul Savoy was once arrested in a  riot that broke out at a cricket test match in Sidney and forever after portrayed the police as uniformly stupid.  Blackie as not only hindered by them, but often hunted as a fugitive through their misinformation -- but they are always slavishly grateful when he produces the real villain.

[4]  The first of a long line of fiendish traps that plague Blackie and Wanda, and from which he escapes with the regularity of Houdini.  In The Foul Fiend of Finagel Blackie is left chained and unconscious at the bottom of an abandoned well fed by a nearby river.  As the natural dam that has blocked the well and made it dry breaks and the flooded river fills the well Blackie lies helpless.  The next chapter begins:  Having escaped Morphy's deadly trap ...

[5]  In Black Moon of the Mummy (1961), Blackie is in Egypt where Wanda is playing Nefertiti in a film about the apostate pharaoh Akenhaten.  A series of murders by a black wrapped mummy turn out to be another of Dr. Morphy's fiendish plots, this one to steal the treasures of the secret tomb of Nefertiti where the film is unwittingly doing location work.

[6]  Never let it be said Savoy misses a chance to use a stereotype.

[7]  The PM never spoke of Blackie without a touch of moisture in the corner of his eye.   Contraband for Blackie Savoy (1947)

[8]  Obviously not the Jean-Paul Sartre, but a distant cousin.

[9]  Region 3 DVDs can only be played on DVD players made in Burma


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